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A parliamentary delegation of Catalonia visits Colombia to give their support to the demobilisation of the paramilitary.

For the second time in less than a year a delegation of the Generalitat together with representatives of all the Catalan parliamentary groups have made an official visit to Colombia.

The visit began on 23rd October and will end with the arrival of the delegation on Sunday 30th October at the airport of Prat in Barcelona.

The object of this visit - as in the case of the preceding one, when the delegation was officially received by President Alvaro Uribe at Nariño - is to support the Colombian Government and, in particular, President Uribe in the process of demobilisation of the paramilitary.

It is well-known that the Spanish diplomatic corps unconditionally supports this Colombian policy - a policy which the media such as the New York Times, have described, in an article entitled "Colombia's Capitulation", as a complete and unconditional surrender of the rule of law in dealing with organized crime.

Spanish support is such that the President of the Government, Zapatero, had no hesitation in offering assurances to facilitate the transfer to Spain of those narco-traffickers who are involved in the negotiations and against whom there exist extradition requests for drug-related crimes.

These statements were made to a newspaper of Cali, immediately following the suspension of the attempted demobilization of the paramilitary as a result of the refusal by the USA to accept the freezing of an extradition petition for one of the leading Colombian drug lords.

At the last meeting of the EU Council of Ministers' Committee on Latin America (COLAT) the confrontation between the Spanish and the French diplomatic positions resulted in a resolution which only barely meets international legal requirements.

The most significant member of the paramilitary leaders is Salvatore Mancuso, a member of the family of capos who, for 20 years have run the N'drangheta, the largest European criminal organization today, ahead of the Sicilian mafia. This organization is also responsible for 50% of the cocaine market in Europe and the United States.

In fact, on the first day of their arrival in Colombia, the Catalan delegation went to Montería, the paramilitary capital and formal headquarters of the majority of those responsible for organized crime in Colombia. This act alone, has a clearly positive impact for the paramilitary leaders.

The organization of this trip, according to sources at the Presidency of the Generalitat, was carried out by the Agencia Catalana de Cooperación (the Catalan Cooperation Agency) - this also appears to be the case according to the Colombian media in which only the director of the Agency, David Minoves, has been mentioned.

The Catalan position, set out in a document to which Radio Nizkor's correspondents in Brussels have had access, seeks to defend the "exceptional legal measures taken to facilitate the transition from a background of violence and limitations on civil liberties to a situation of non-violence and the full establishment of democracy. Transitional justice temporarily assumes the powers of criminal justice".

The issue, in fact, concerns the establishment of a state of legal exception, starting from the premise that international human rights law is not applicable and ignoring the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission and Court to the extent that the document contains not one reference to Latin American jurisprudence with respect to laws of impunity.

On 15th September the Inter-American Court published its judgement in the case concerning the Mapiripán Massacre, in which Judge Cançado Trindade in his concurring judgement stated "the incursion of paramilitaries in Mapiripán was an act that had been planned in detail several months prior to June 1997, carried out with logistical preparation and with the collaboration, acquiescence and deliberate inaction of members of the Army (...) The authorities were aware of the attack carried out against the civilian population in Mapiripán and failed to take the necessary measures to protect the members of the community".

The Court held that it had been shown that "the Colombian army permitted the landing of 'irregular flights' which transported" the paramilitaries to the area, and "facilitated the transport of the paramilitaries to Mapiripán". Surrounding Mapiripán on 15th July 1997, the paramilitaries "dressed in clothes exclusively worn by the military, carried close and long range weapons of a type used by the State and had high frequency radios."

With respect to the laws of impunity applicable to paramilitary demobilisation the judgement expressly stated:

"For its part, the State stated that the enactment of Law 975 of 2005 does not constitute a supervening act as provided in article 44.3 of the Regulations, as it was not applicable in this particular case, as a result of which it is not possible to determine and identify the alleged violations which the application of such law may have over the victims' rights. On analysis of the scope of this law, the State declared that it would be improper for the Court in this case to opine concerning the compatibility of the said law with the international obligations of the State pursuant to the American Convention.

On this point, the Court repeats its consistent jurisprudence in the sense that no law or provision of internal law can impede a State from complying with its obligation to investigate and punish those responsible for violations of human rights. In particular, it is unacceptable to introduce laws of amnesty, laws of prescription or to establish exceptions from responsibility which attempt to impede the investigation and punishment of those responsible for serious violations of human rights - as in this case, for executions or for disappearances. The Court reiterates that the State's obligation to properly investigate and - where appropriate - to punish those responsible, must be diligently complied with in order to avoid impunity and the recurrence of this type of act.

The massacres of the current brutalized world are beginning to reach not only ad hoc international criminal tribunals (as in those for Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda) which determine the international criminal responsibility of individuals, but also international human rights courts (such as the Inter-American Court) which determines the international responsibility of States. Before this Court, there is testimony to this new development in the recent cases of the Plan de Sánchez Massacre with respect to Guatemala (2004); of the 19 Merchants vs. Colombia (2004); the Moiwana Community vs Suriname (2005) - which can be added to the earlier cases of Aloeboetoe and others vs Suriname (1991-1993) ; Barrios Altos with respect to Peru (2001) and, finally to the present case of the Mapiripán Massacre with respect to Colombia".

The position set out in the above mentioned document does not take into account European legislation on human rights nor the jurisprudence arising out of conflicts such as that in the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo and others.

This position attempts to defend a legal regime of exception not only with respect to international human rights law and International Humanitarian Law but also with respect to organized crime. This position is a flagrant violation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the Palermo Convention against transnational organized crime.

Perhaps this is the reason why this second visit of a Catalan delegation with representatives of the Generalitat has been organized discreetly and has kept a low profile. It is particularly remarkable bearing in mind that in Spain no autonomous government has foreign policy jurisdiction.

The visit is being made at a critical moment when the paramilitaries have publicised the suspension of negotiations because of an evident lack of any solution to the problem of extraditions and have also announced that in 2006 there will be no more demobilisations.

The crisis is such that the newspaper El Tiempo, owned by the Vice-President of the Republic, Pacho Santos, ( and in which Grupo Prisa, based in Miami and Madrid, also has a financial interest) has had to acknowledge that of more than 10,000 apparent demobilised persons only 200 would in fact go through the 'justice' of exception and impunity introduced by the Colombian government with the support, among others, of the Spanish diplomatic corps.

Radio Nizkor has been able to confirm from sources at the Press Office of the Catalan Cooperation agency the following list of the members of the delegation to which our Brussels correspondents had access:

  • Xavier Vendrell, General Secretary of the Department of the First Minister of the Generalitat de Catalunya.
  • Anna Falguera i Rosas, Head of the Cabinet of the General Secretary of the Ministry for Home Affairs of the Generalitat de Catalunya..
  • David Minoves, Director of the Catalan Agency of Co-operation for Development
  • Francesc Freixa, Director of Co-operation for Development of the Barcelona City Council.
  • Victor Puntas, Catalan Fund for Development Co-operation
  • Tono Albareda, Taula per Colombia (Catalan group of associations working in the field of solidarity towards Colombia)
  • Maria Josep Parés, Taula per Colombia
  • Xavier Badia, Vice-president, Catalan Council for the Promotion of Peace.
  • Maria Merc Campabadal Calbó, Trade Union Confederation Comisiones Obreras, Catalunya
  • Carme Porta i Abad, President of the Commission for Co-operation for Development, Catalan Parliament.
  • Roberto Edgardo Labandera, Member of Parliament for the Parliamentary Group of the Socialist Party of Catalunya.
  • Pilar Dellunde i Clavé, Member of Parliament for the Parliamentary Group Ezquerda Republicana de Catalunya.
  • Maria Dolors Clavell, Member of Parliament for the Parliamentary Group Iniciativa per Catalunya los verdes.
  • Josefina Cambra i Giné, Member of Parliament for the Parliamentary Group Convergencia i Unio.
  • Rafael López Rueda, Member of Parliament for the Parliamentary Group Partido Popular.
  • Lorena Fernndez, Unit for the Construction of Peace of the Catalan Agency of Co-operation for Development.
  • Ivà Cunill, Head of the Unit for the Construction of Peace of the Catalan Agency of Co-operation for Development.
[Note: This comment has been prepared with information provided by the Radio Nizkor correspondents in Brussels, Bogotá, Washington and Barcelona and originally produced at Radio Nizkor's studios in San Francisco, California on 26th October 2005].

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